Background: This was the first piece I published online on 01 June 1999. It was perhaps the first blog post published in India on my website, www.manfrommatunga.com. I thought I had lost the original website appearance, but then found that the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archives had archived my pages. The first is from 10 Nov 1999, showing this image.
In those days, we called them writing sites. In May 1999, the word "blog" was coined as a shorter version of "weblog". I wasn't aware of the term till a few months later. For quite some time, until I moved to typepad and then Wordpress (or was it the other way around), I used to still use the term "writing site".
Below is the piece, "Of Sitcoms" from 01 Jun 1999.
Of Sitcoms (01 Nov 1999)
Why aren't there any good local sitcoms?
On Monday nights, StarWorld airs five sitcoms starting 9PM. Of these five, Home Improvement (HI), Dharma and Greg (DG) and Caroline in the city (CC) are great. I find Mr. Bean and It's a Man's World ordinary though there are people who can't wait to even watch Mr. Bean.
The point here is that I can't wait to get home to see these sitcoms. Last Monday, we ran away from a party just to get back home in time for DG. (Why I didn't tape it, I don't know, but I didn't even think about that). Both DG and CC are whacky, funny, have great production values and have terrific one-liners and dialogues that make you laugh all the time. More importantly, I feel like coming back for more and just can't wait for the sitcoms to be aired the next week.
Which local sitcoms leave me wanting more ? None. Some years ago, Dekh Bhai Dekh (DBD) and Zabaan Sambhal Ke (a Mind your Language rip-off) made me feel that way. They were good. Today, I can't seem to find a single sitcom that would make me feel bad, if I missed an episode or two. Most of them are loud and noisy and slapstick rules over funny dialogues. Even if an episode have some funny lines, the rest of the episode either leaves me cold or makes me cringe. Chamatkar, Baat Ban Jaye, Hudd Kar Dee... the list is endless.
Why can't we make good local sitcoms? Maybe part of the reason is our inability to laugh at ourselves. An attitude that severely restricts the playing field - no sexual jokes, no religion-based jokes, no attacks on specific ethnic groups, no politician-based jokes (unless they are generic or involve Laloo Prasad). Most Westerns sitcoms, especially the American ones, usually have a no-holds barred attitude towards who and what they can target. Even though a lot is made about being politically correct, they still do get away making fun of virtually anything and everything. On the other hand, if we have to look behind our backs every time wondering who we are offending, it probably does get tough writing funny lines.
The other reason probably, is the absence of the concept of seasons. Most American sitcoms run for a maximum of 26 episodes a year. The rest of the year is spent doing other things, thinking up new episodes, relaxing, rejuvenating, whatever. This helps. Here, we go on and on and on... and I am sure at some time even the funniest script-writer goes cold.
I'd love to know of good Hindi sitcoms if they exist. But hey, before recommending any, have a look at DG and CC if you haven't, to understand the difference. It's a pity that Seinfeld and Frasier are not being aired - these are even funnier.
Next Monday, don't miss........ on Star World.......
It is funny. Twenty-four years later, we still can't laugh at ourselves and it has only gotten worse. Now everyone takes umbrage at every small perceived insult and goes on the warpath...which is easy to do online. In 1999, you could only comment on pieces like these on the website, or on online forums (does anyone remember India-D). There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...just the Internet.
And the world of sitcoms has changed. Even now, there aren't too many good, funny sitcoms, just shows and shows and shows. We are inundated with choice...from Netflix to Amazon Prime to Apple TV to torrents to Jio showing Peacock and HBO to Disney...and yet there are times when all I do is go through apps and shows and land up having watched nothing after half an hour of just switching and flipping.
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